African-American collage artist Romare Bearden emphasized the importance of ritual in “Return of the Prodigal Son.” The artwork, which is part of a series, combines modern and traditional versions of the classic Biblical story. Bearden’s work was deeply influenced by jazz and the blues, and reflects the improvised style of both types of music. Drawing upon the blues, this piece imparts the music’s ideals of hope and dignity. Bearden (1911 – 1988) strongly believed in the blues message that hardships would transform into happiness, and that life would ultimately prevail.
Exceptional African-American collage artist Romare Bearden (1911 – 1988) strove to cross all cultural boundaries in unique works influenced by Cubism. Bearden was profoundly influenced by Harlem’s flourishing jazz scene, and his jubilant works reflect the music’s improvisational style. Expressing themes of ritual, music and family in his artwork, Bearden was also a gifted writer, songwriter, book illustrator, theater designer and humanitarian. Creating an astonishing 2,000 works in his lifetime, Bearden is considered one of the most prominent African-American artists of 20th century.